The Tale of Nancy and the Unicorn

This is a bit of a saga – you might need a cup of tea to accompany the following blog. Or some Kendall Mint Cake – that should sustain you. As the immortal Tilly (not mine, the one in Miranda) says ‘Bear with, bear with…’ Interestingly, Sally Phillips, who plays Tilly, describes her as Miranda’s friend, “monster idiot” and “language disease.” This is entirely by-the-by, but it turns out that Tilly is my new word-crush. I shall henceforth be using far more of her language right here in my blog.

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Sample: “I presume you are kiddingtons?” (translation: I hope you are joking.)

Back to unicorns. A while ago, Polly went through a unicorn-obsessed stage. As Polly likes to draw whatever she is thinking about at the time, the house slowly filled with unicorn pictures. I looked up some on the internet for her to look at; she wanted to know what colour they were and whether they had tails or not. And most of the pictures of unicorns looked something like this:

Pink Unicorn

Which is fine, if you like that kind of thing. But unicorns are such  interesting creatures; mythological, enchanted, magical. Powerful. Not swirly and pink (I don’t think. I do realise that they don’t really exist, by the way. Or probably don’t exist, anyway…) I suddenly wanted, very much, to do a t-shirt with a unicorn on.  And I remembered an artist that I had met at a craft stall once. She was selling artwork, and some bags that she had decorated with a chicken-print. Sarah and I loved them. They all had different decorations on, and we couldn’t decide which one we liked best, so in the end, we went and chose one for each other. I still use mine all the time. (This is a good explanation of how we tend to make very little at craft fairs  – if we sell stuff, we nearly always go and buy something.)

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The artists’ name was Nancy. Have a look at her website; her work is beautiful.  I finally plucked up the courage to arrange to meet her -I am always nervous of meeting people whose work I really admire; and she was bound to be really arty and cool, possibly a bit aloof . I met her in Pensieri, where she sells some of her work occasionally.  She was indeed arty and cool, but also really really lovely, disarmingly honest and interested in what I was doing with the t-shirts.  I liked her straight away, which clearly helps if you want to work with someone.  I love the idea of putting art on t-shirts. It’s a great way of owning and wearing brilliant, original artworks, and at the same time supporting local artists (and t-shirt designers – ahem.) Nancy drew and painted me the most amazing unicorn head. It was bold,  and floral at the same time. Perfect. I loved it.  And we printed it on a t-shirt. And it was nice: sweet, girly,  and pretty.  Polly liked it, other girls liked it. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to love it but it just wasn’t right. I fretted about it. I hate being disappointed with stuff. So I sold a few, but felt kind of bad. It just wasn’t the unicorn I had hoped.

So I worried for a bit longer, and then I got bored with being disappointed, and rang our t-shirt printing guru, Tricia, and told her I wanted to try again; to do the unicorn justice. I took a  deep breath and told myself that the extra expense would be worth it. I chose a different t-shirt colour to make the design stand out, and I told Tricia to make it BIG.

And NOW I’m happy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think it is both marvilisimous and tremendulant.

Want one? They go on sale this week. Very limited edition at the moment, but if they go down well there will be more!  You can buy them at our folksy shop here. Or email sarahandaliceclothing@gmail.com. They are a bit more expensive than usual. It’s a sad necessity. The prices of our t-shirts have gone up in the last year or so, but I am determined to stick with good-quality, ethically produced t-shirts. We could go cheaper but we’ve stuck with our principles. And with t-shirts we love the quality of.

Day of the Dragonfly

This is a mini-blog (blogette? babyblog?) in celebration of the very fine work of a good friend of mine; Lloyd. Some people are just quietly brilliant, and would never dream of shouting about it. I’m sort of doing the shouting on behalf of him here. I’m quite good at shouting, as it happens.

Pondering

This is Lloyd. And his t-shirt. And his pipe. (Mostly just a prop, I think.) A while ago, Lloyd designed these dragonfly t-shirts in a nice yellow/navy combination, and we just loved them. Lloyd lives in the countryside near Bedford and is a stay-at-home-dad as well as a graphic designer / drayman for local micro-brewery White Park / editor of brilliant music Fanzine Phaff & Potter. I think that’s possibly the best job description I’ve ever come across.

Lloyd has done some excellent designs for us in the past, but these t-shirts are for one of his little sidelines: louie louie t-shirts.

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If you’d like to buy one, and I suggest you do, as they are rather Chris Packham-esque – and who wouldn’t want to emulate Chris ‘I’m quite attractive, very enthusiastic AND I care about wildlife too’ Packham – you can do so here. They come in adult and childrens’ sizes, meaning that you could have a father-daughter/ father-son combo.

When he is not designing t-shirts / pritt-sticking musical satire/delivering beer/looking after his girls, Lloyd can be found defacing the work of Grand Masters:

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Brilliant, eh?

I need to update our much-neglected (by me as much as by customers) Folksy shop. Folksy is a brilliant website – if you haven’t had a browse, go ahead. You are almost guaranteed to find  some hand-knitted cat-shaped tea cosy, or rude-message cross -stitch samplers, or a nice bit of interesting jewellery; or something else you had no idea you needed in your life until you have seen it, from which point life seems to be impossible without it.  I love that kind of stuff. Things I have bought from Folksy in the past have included a Cafetiere cardigan (!) an Eiffel tower brooch and a selection of photos someone had taken and made into postcards. Just random lovely things that you might not otherwise stumble across. I’ll update it this week and in the process try and share some of the cool stuff I’ll no doubt be distracted by…

On a final, Sunday night note: thanks very much to everyone who read my blog about the Where’s Wally Fun Run and have sponsored me. I’m really grateful, as the National Literacy Trust  is such a great cause to run (stagger) for.  I can report that I am officially in training, and have therefore downgraded my morning butter and jam on toast to just butter as a nod to making me slightly less hefty to drag around, and have been out huffing, puffing and generally sounding like Darth Vader to ensure that I can at least complete the course without a major health issues. Bring on the fun, and with a little less enthusiasm, the run!

Of principles, bikes and monkees

Let’s get the monkees out of the way first, shall we? It’s generally considered good practice.

Monkee Genes was one of the brands that I looked at when we first thought about setting up our little ethical clothing business. Monkee Genes make jeans. And cords. And shorts. Bottom-half-wear, essentially. They are a great ethical business model, their strapline being:

‘No slave labour. No child labour,  No blood. No sweat. No tears.’

That’s pretty ace, right? They are also the only denim brand to have accreditation from The Soil Association, as well as the Global Organic Textile Standards people. They’re made from organic cotton, and in their own words ‘are made by people who care. Because they are cared for.’

Monkee Jeans was created in 2006 by Phil Wildbore who was ‘disillusioned at Primark and disposable High Street Fashion,’ and decided to take a stand against it. In denim.

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I first fell in love with The Genes in one of my favourite shops in Cambridge: Cult Clothing. I picked them up, totally unaware of the ethical credentials; I loved them purely because it was as if someone had taken my dream jeans shape and made them. And given them a cool banana button. They may not be for everyone, shape wise. They do skinny, supaskinny and flares. Proper, big flares, of which I am especially fond. They are a total pain in the rain, where the dampness can reach your knees in minutes, and they usually get dragged along the floor hoovering up all the tat you walk through, (as I generally refuse to wear heels,) but apart from that – I love them to pieces. Literally. So having finally destroyed my original pair, I have just purchased another pair of flares, in their sale. If you fill in the survey on their website, they’ll give you an extra £5 off your order. You can also choose a free ‘patch’ that fixes to the back of your jeans, which is interchangeable with the banana one that comes with the jeans.  I could go on. I won’t. Visit the website, have a look for yourself. I’m fairly sure that a certain junior dandy of mine will be getting a pair of these for his birthday. The boy does love his skinny jeans. (Yeah, I did not expect that either. I thought: boy = ripped up jeans, mud and stuff. But no! He likes bow-ties and polo shirts and skinny jeans – but also, reassuringly; mud. )

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Kids’ jeans too! In lovely colours!

Even if you aren’t in the market for flares or skinnys, Monkee Genes is an inspirational example of an ethical fashion brand that stands by its principles, and is very successful at the same time. It’s crazy that in 2013, they should be the exception, rather than the rule.

Righty-ho, onto our own ethical clothing malarky. Last year was very bike-y, let us all agree. There was Bradley ‘The Sideburns’ Wiggins, Mark ‘The Sunglasses’ Cavendish, and Victoria ‘Don’t cry, we all love you!’ Pendleton, amongst many, many others (Sir Chris ‘OH-MY-GOD-LOOK-AT-HIS-ENORMOUS-THIGHS’ Hoy, I should probably mention too.) My five and a half year old -halves are very important when you are five, and should be included- Will, really got into cycling, and loved watching bits of the Tour de France and all of the Olympic cycling as well as tackling the local parks on his new chopper-style bike. Rich not only went mad and bought a very posh bike, but also found a very good, old one in the tip. (We do love our recycling. It’s like a family hobby.)

Anyway, it’s national cycle to school week in March, and I really want to support it. Even if your kids can’t bike to school, it’s good to encourage them to see cycling as a healthy, sustainable form of transport, as well as being loads of fun. So I put local designer, Fanzine editor-in-chief and the generally lovely Lloyd on the case. The brief was, and I quote: ‘wibbly hand-drawn-retro-ish bike.’ Now I like surprises, so I won’t ruin this one, but let me just say – he did good. T-shirts will be printed in Feb, ready for wearing whilst tearing down the cycle track. You heard it here first!  (unless you’ve been eavesdropping? Weird.)

Happy Birthday Blog!

A year ago yesterday, I wrote my first blog post. So my little blog is now a year old! Is this an excuse for cake? I reckon so. Hell, perhaps even a bottle of ohmygod-I-paid-over-a-fiver-for-it vino! (I do not do fizz. In that way, I am remarkably like a hedgehog.) It has been so much fun writing about the adventures, mis-adventures, and all the rest of it that I’ve waffled on about over the last year. And I do fully intend to carry on with it. WordPress tells me that I have readers in 58 countries, which is marvellously exciting (and baffling – to be honest I think I might struggle to name 58 countries.) Germans seem especially fond of it – and to you guys I say Veilen dank! Sehr sehr much. To people who read, comment on and share it – thank you so much. To my lovely friends who have been very encouraging and excited about it – YAYAYAY – shall we go for a drink to celebrate?! A blog-anniversary party is so deliciously 2013. To the one person who arrived at my blog having searched for Zara shoes, I apologize. (But I will congratulate you on your excellent  taste in shoes, lady! – or man?) Right, that’s the Oscars speech over.

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I wish!

I could blather on for quite some time (believe me!) on what I hope to achieve this year, but  reading this is not meant to be an endurance test. Here’s a cheery little list of what may or may not be coming up over the next year:

1. I will make a Death Star – Star Wars themed bookshelf-based thing for Will, to even up the Sindy house thing. It’s all gone a bit Blue Peter here.

2. Two new t-shirt designs are in the offing. They will happen. I am excited! Spring time, new life, new growth – new t-shirts.

3. I need to get better at promoting and marketing our products. I also need to abandon the idea that wearing a sandwich board or dressing in a comedy costume, standing in public places with a megaphone counts as promoting. I know it doesn’t, but frankly that is what I picture whenever someone says ‘you just need to get your brand out there!’

4. I need a brand.

5. I want to write more about what it actually means to be a mum, at home, trying to balance some work, three children, being vaguely creative and keeping a sort-of-life. And not a domestic-goddess, good-at-keeping-her-patience mum. Because I am sarcastic and a bit selfish and generally very un-domesticated, and I couldn’t possibly fake it. It might be nice for people who are also not domestic goddesses/gods to read. If I wasn’t writing it, I’d be looking for something similar to read. I had to lie down in a darkened room for a while when I first started reading mummy-blogs. There was far too much earnestness and instagrammed perfection. Family life is lovely, don’t get me wrong. And I consider myself very lucky. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not bloody hard work, or that I don’t feel the urge to be sarcastic about it.

6. On a personal level, I’d like to improve my ice-skating skillz and remember to get my fringe cut more often.

There are loads of other ideas and projects I want to do too. But obviously I can’t write about them all here, otherwise there’d be no point blogging about them! So, thank you once again for reading – I love you all, daaaahrlings! Seriously, I should have got myself a posh frock and a load of diamonds to wear whilst writing this….

Shiny and New

How do you like the new look so far? I have more changes planned, but as yet they have amounted to lots of umming, ahhhing and general procrastination, but very little actual decision making. So I thought I’d try out the first stage, otherwise it will be mid-March before anything gets off the ground. I realise that the blog title might a bit hard to read, all in joined up writing – although my seven year old would be most pleased – but you’ll just have to live with that I’m afraid, because I liked the main font (which is of crucial importance to me) and the colours.

The first post on the face-lifted (and I mean that in a fun way, not in a creepy, Hollywood way) blog will be all about BOOKS. I am so excited when I find a really good book, for me or for the children – and sometimes all of us -that I just can’t be cool about it. I have to share. It’s like a compulsion.

For Christmas, my youngest was given another book by Julia Donaldson (of Gruffalo super-fame, also the Childrens’ Laureate) to add to our burgeoning collection. This, though, is Tilly’s favourite so far:

Paper Dolls

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It’s a wonderful story (and is beautifully illustrated by Rebecca Cobb) about a little girl and her adventures with her paper dolls, including Flo with the bow, Jacky the backy,  and Jim with two noses. A lovely story, and a great big poke towards some simple crafting with the kids. It certainly inspired us to make some paper dolls of our own. And before you go thinking that is a bit of a girl-exclusive, Will and Richard made some storm trooper versions. But there is a wealth of paper doll variation out there, should you choose to look/google. I spotted this very nice Thom Yorke doll, for cool and aloof crafters.

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And speaking of storm troopers (which these days I often am,) Will has been most excited by his gift from Grandma and Grandad of a set of these excellent Star Wars reading books:

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Now he is at the point where he’d like to read for himself a bit more, and is less enamoured with the adventures of Biff, Chip, Kipper and the gang, these are perfect. Not too many tricky words and full of information about stuff he is actually interested in. The history of the Empire, Jabba the Hutt, and Anakin’s back story, naturally. He may trip over words like ‘which’ or ‘because’, but he can read Emperor Palpatine without flinching.

And as for the newly seven year old girl, we chose a set of the Moomin books. They are very different to her current books of choice (The Magic Pony/Unicorn/Kitten/Bunny or Roald Dahl) but they are magical stories and the pictures are just something else.

Because even when you are an ever so grown up seven year old and like to read to yourself, lovely pictures are VERY important.

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New Year, Same Me, (but doing More Interesting Things!)

-It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

I love this quote. It’s Charles Dickens, from the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities. I’ll remember that forever now, having got it wrong in a pub quiz once. However, the law of pub quizzing demands that I will never again encounter that as a question. Annoying. I always think of it at New Year, when everyone is summing up the previous year. For me, 2012 has mostly felt like the best of times. Perhaps there has not been a huge amount of wisdom, but certainly lots of light and hope and having everything before us.  There have been some worst bits too (as there always are. The superlative degree of comparison and all.)

My New Year’s resolution last year in 2012 was to write a blog. I’ve loved it.

Magic 8ball pen

I’m ready for the challenges of 2013 now though. First up will be prettying up, expanding and tweaking this blog. As Tilly in Miranda would say: ‘bear with, bear with…’  it might take a few weeks. I am the least technical-minded person in our house. I should really get one of the children to help. They’d definitely be quicker and probably more stylish.  But please keep reading, commenting, sharing and even shouting at me in the street:  “hey – nice blog!” – Ok, that’s only happened the once. But I did not object. I just dropped all the stuff I was carrying.

I’m not sure about a New Year’s Resolution this year. I should definitely eat a bit less cheese, and I seem to have developed fatted-calves syndrome, which is threatening to break the zip on my lovely new boots, so I should squeeze some Lycra on and get exercising more.  But I was thinking today of how much more fun it is to try to do new things.

‘New Year, Same You ! (but do More Interesting Things!)’  is my catchy working slogan.  So far, am thinking:

Eat at a new (as in somewhere you’ve never been before) restaurant once a month

Try a new cocktail each month

Go to one live music event every month

I am much less likely to break these than the giving-up kind of resolutions, and they sound way more fun. 2013 – the year of lots of hard work but a new cocktail each month just sounds like a great plan to me!

In September 2013,  my littlest girl goes to school.  And the wonderful, exhausting,  frustrating and yet magical years of being at home with my three lovely children will come to an end. I’m excited for her, and about the freedom and the possibilities for me, and at the same time I’m terrified of the finality of it. 2013, whatever I achieve, whatever I don’t manage to do, will be momentous.

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The tale of the Stripes and the Gambler.

I am a terrible gambler. I pick a Grand National horse each year based purely on name (they never win,) I get addicted to 2p machines on seaside holidays and I once won a line at Bingo but was too shy to go up and claim my (£3) prize. I’ve only won one raffle in the last 15 years, and that was at a school pamper night, right in the middle of a manicure. My daughter was new to the school, so I had decided to try and get to know some of the other mums by going to a pamper night. I was just having the final coat applied, when I heard my name being called. I was quite a long way from the raffle and had to do an undignified sort of running through the school hall, past lots of people I didn’t really know -with no shoes and socks on, as I was due to have a pedicure – my varnish-y hands outstretched like a zombie in order to collect what turned out to be a wonderful ‘pamper hamper’ of goodies. But since then, zilch. I played the lottery for a while with my friend Lois, but I spent most of that time in a state of paranoia that I would forget to buy a ticket when it was my turn and our numbers would come up. We won a tenner once, I think.

But it is Christmas. And we’ve had some ideas for t-shirts kicking about for ages, and haven’t got around to printing them. We’ve both been busy lately, and preoccupied, and to be honest, a bit worried about printing t-shirts. Just in case, you know. Just in case they weren’t good enough. Just in case people didn’t like them. Just in case they ended up sitting in a corner of my living room. Basically, we got The Fear. If you don’t have much money to gamble with, it quite often feels like a silly thing to do. Much more sensible to put the money in the bank and save it. But then, two weeks ago, I got a bit bored of The Fear, and remembered that in order to get an idea off the ground, you need to actually do it. It might fail, it might, actually, turn out to be a rubbish idea; but you’ll never know if you don’t try. Sometimes you really do have to take a gamble.

So in a typical last-minute rush (some things never change) I arranged to re-print our retro-rollerskate design on some beautiful stripey t-shirts. I was guessing at the result, I’m actually quite bad at visualizing stuff, which is annoying, but I do love stripes, and I love the rollerskate design. So I made a wild guess that a combination of the two would be good. And here is the result.

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I really, really like it. So does Sarah. But ultimately, we are not making t-shirts for us, we are making t-shirts for other people to buy. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, right? Well don’t eat this t-shirt, but if you have a little girl who likes to rollerskate, do think of buying it. Hell, do actually buy it! Try here. Our Folksy shop is woefully under-used:

http://folksy.com/items/3847042-Retro-Rollerskate-t-shirt-4-5-years-

And for parents of boys: don’t worry! We haven’t forgotten you. We’re re-printing our best-selling BMX design on black and white stripes THIS WEEK! We also have two other new designs, which I shall update you/blather on about in my next blog post this week. (Two in one week?? Blog posts are the new buses.)